Local News

Fire Boss logging triple the stick time in 2014 firefighting effort

Fire Boss logging triple the stick time in 2014 firefighting effort

DEER PARK, Wash. - In Spokane County there were over 50 wildfires in July, burning 11,000 acres and keeping air crews busy running missions to help crews on the ground tame these fires.

"It's been pretty crazy this year, the fire season started early and very hot," Eric Johnson said.

Johnson is the pilot of the Fire Boss, a water-dropping aircraft that he's been flying out of Deer Park for 24 years to fight fires around the region.

"In the Fire Boss the tank area is between the engine and the cockpit, it's an 800 gallon hopper," he said.

About this time last year, Johnson had logged about 30 hours of stick time fighting fires. This year he's logged 90 hours and counting already.

"I don't think anyone really anticipated it coming on as hard as it did," Johnson said.

2014 is one of the busiest fire seasons Johnson has ever seen.

"Right now at Deer Park we have six fire bombers," he said. "I've never seen that many in Deer Park in one season before."

Johnson will be spending more time in the Fire Boss this summer fighting fires, he just doesn't want to guess how many.

"That's one thing I learned in 24 years. You never predict a fire season. You just be ready when the bell goes off," he said.

The Fire Boss is on a 60-day contract with DNR that ends September 1st but could be extended.